The Hole In Earth's Ozone Layer Is The Smallest It's Been In Decades

Sunset over South America photographed from aboard the International Space Station in 2017. NASA

Off the back of a huge global effort, the ozone layer over the Antarctic is the smallest its been in decades. At this rate of recovery, the United Nation’s environmental agency has declared that most parts of the ozone layer will be completely healed within our lifetime. 

Since 2000, parts of the ozone layer have recovered at a rate of 1 to 3 percent every 10 years, according to the latest Scientific Assessment of Ozone Depletion. This rate hopefully suggests that the Northern Hemisphere and mid-latitude ozone will heal completely by the 2030s, with the Southern Hemisphere repaired by the 2050s.

The ozone layer is a region of Earth's stratosphere high in concentrations of the gas ozone that helps to shield the planet from the Sun's harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays. The use of certain human-made chemicals, especially manufactured refrigerants and solvents, can act as ozone-depleting substances after they are transported into the stratosphere, causing the layer to deplete and a “hole” to form. 

The hole in the Antartic ozone layer is currently undergoing its seasonal growth spurt that starts every year in August and peaks in October. Newly released data by the Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (CAMS) has shown that the ozone is behaving in a “very unusual” fashion. Although this year’s ozone hole has grown under some freak conditions, causing it to appear further from the pole than usual, meteorologists predict it‘s still on track to be the smallest area of any Antarctic ozone hole in 30 years.

Forecast of how the ozone hole is likely to evolve over mid-September 2019. Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service/ECMWF

“Our forecasts show it will remain small this week and we expect that this year’s ozone hole will be one of the smallest holes that we’ve seen since the mid-1980s,” Antje Inness, Senior Scientist at CAMS, said in a statement.

After the ozone hole was first discovered in 1985, the world acted quickly to resolve the problem. By 1987, 196 countries and the European Union signed the Montreal Protocol to phase out the production of nearly 100 substances that are responsible for ozone destruction. 

To date, it remains the only United Nations treaty to be adopted by all member states. As these results reaffirm, the protocol was an unprecedented success.

At a time when the world is teetering on the precipice of catastrophic climate change, the ozone hole’s recovery serves as a reminder that it’s possible for the world to address its colossal environmental problems through collective action and policy change.

“The Montreal Protocol has been such a success because of unanimous global support,” UN Secretary-General, António Guterres said in a UN statement. 

“We should remember that the Montreal Protocol is both an inspirational example of how humanity is capable of cooperating to address a global challenge and a key instrument for tackling today’s climate crisis.”

 

 

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